Wellness For Our Parents

A resident physician and son's perspective on how to achieve the best health for our parents

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I recently took care of patients in a busy NYC intensive care unit where I saw more suffering and death than I expected. The last thing I wanted was to see my parents and loved ones there, and it became my goal to optimize their health and wellness. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our parents are aging, and it’s their wellness in these years that will set the stage for how they live and thrive in the future. The information is out there, but sometimes it’s difficult to sift through. After much research and talking to some of the best physicians in the field, this is the regimen I have my parents on and I hope this will help your loved ones live better and longer.

1- Diabetes- Prevent it, and if they have it, use diet to reverse it. Medications are only a band-aid, not a cure. Cut the carbs (pasta, cereal, bread, white rice) and substitute them with other grains like quinoa or brown rice. Cut down on trans and hydrogenated fats from fried and processed foods. Get 5-9 servings or more of fruits and vegetables every day (green smoothies are easy). Increase anti-inflammatory whole foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes, and fish. Diabetes is responsible for heart attacks, blindness, amputations, kidney failure, strokes, and infections, so please do your best to prevent it or keep it in check.

2- Heart Disease- Have them see a cardiologist and ask about primary prevention with a statin (cholesterol lowering and anti-inflammatory) and a baby aspirin, and make sure they are on the most optimized blood pressure regimen. Get fish oil, and I recommend getting a Coronary Calcium Scan, an affordable and highly useful way to determine the current state of their heart and their risk for a heart attack. Remember, you are your parents best advocate.

3. Vitamin D Deficiency- Probably one of the most under-diagnosed and dangerous chronic conditions. It seems trivial but once people fracture a hip or other major bones, resilience drops and rates of deaths and illness severely increase. Ask your doctor to check Vitamin D levels and supplement accordingly.

4. Exercise- A half hour per day for five days a week. It doesn’t count unless they get their heart and breathing rates up. It’s a lot to ask but trust me they’ll do it. My parents were anti-exercise, and after two years of being that annoying pestering son, they both now have a religious exercise regimen.

5. Cancer Screening- Colonoscopy (50-75 years old every 10 years), Mammogram (50-74 years old every two years). Goes without saying.

6. Support/Love/Community- Many doctors will dismiss this, but it’s because they aren’t aware of the science. People with love, encouragement, and community do much better in the hospital and have longer rates of survival, not to mention a better quality of life.

This should be good to get your loved ones started. We can’t avoid things like unforeseen massive heart attacks or cancer, but we can prevent a great deal of sickness. Good luck!

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